I confess I am not athletically inclined. I come from a family of tennis players, but I never played. This lack of interest is one reason I am perhaps the only person I know who isn’t following the London Olympics. For that, I apologize in advance. But the second reason is that I do not have cable at home: it’s my one act of self-denial and spiritual discipline.
Another reason I do not watch the Olympics is the provincialism that it seems to bring out in people. The Americans I hear from appear to be barely aware of the existence of talented non-American athletes. Those other folks seem to serve the purpose of bringing Americans to the top, or giving us a few hours of cheering for ourselves. Aren’t the Olympics at least philosophically supposed to open us up to the whole world, and make us more aware of their existence? If the event just makes us more provincial and self-absorbed, what’s the point? As freshmen going for beer-soaked study abroad trips, what purpose does international exposure-and-connection serve if it does not broaden us, stretch us, and open us up?
I am also uncomfortable with competitive sporting events just as I am uncomfortable with the notion of competition in education. The field is not level. Some competitors have state-of-the-art facilities, endless opportunities, coaches and time to train (and salaries as athletes). On an individual level, competition has become extreme. There is far too much money and commercialism involved in sports. The consequences of winning/losing are far too serious for participation in sports to be benign. The pressure on competitive sportswomen and -men is excessive.
That said, I don’t enjoy following sports, so what do I know? Back to your regularly scheduled programming, where you gnash your teeth at the Russian gymnasts’ attitude and cheer Gabby or Aly.